With today’s new SUVs blurring the line between cars and trucks, there are many vehicles on the market that blend SUV appearances and general abilities with car-like road manners. Then there are also some traditional SUVs that are built on a truck platform and still emphasize that aspect. Infiniti’s QX4 is just that, a powerful, luxurious, comfortable sport-utility vehicle that drives well on the road, yet its truck roots are unmistakable. Infiniti’s choice to stay with a simple, capable truck chassis as the starting point for the QX4 makes it a good choice if you use your SUV as a truck.
Although the QX4’s relation to the Nissan Pathfinder is obvious, and the vehicles’ basic shape and design cues have gone mostly unaltered for several years now, the QX4 maintains a slightly cleaner, sleeker appearance than the Pathfinder. For 2001, the QX4 gained a number of minor exterior changes that further differentiate it from the Pathfinder, along with new standard xenon headlamps, a different grille and rear bumper, and revised body cladding. We found the optional three-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels included in our $600 Premium Package option to be very complimentary to the QX4’s appearance.
Gobs more power; a touchy gas pedal
But the big news for 2001 is 70 more horsepower. Last year’s 170-hp, 3.3-liter V-6 has been replaced with a beefy 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. The QX4’s new engine, derived from the Nissan Maxima’s (and Infiniti I30’s) 3.0-liter V-6, uses a variable valve timing system that varies the effective intake manifold length and adjusts the timing to match. The new aluminum-block engine, which also incorporates various other internal tweaks, is 35 pounds lighter than the 3.3.
The difference on the road is quite profound. The 3.5-liter is more robust—and much smoother—than the old engine, which didn’t have enough gusto for expeditious passing maneuvers. There aren’t any flat spots, and plenty of torque is available just above idle—enough to smoke the tires in two-wheel-drive mode if you so desire such juvenile behavior. With 265 lb-ft of torque available at 3200 rpm, this V-6 feels more like a small V-8. It’s also a smooth engine but it’s not as isolated and vibration-free as the Maxima/I30 engine. From 3500 rpm up, the engine gains noise, and a slight bit of roughness, although the power builds along with it.